The 3rd annual Westfest will be held this Saturday, July 14, at Elver Park and it will be a fun-filled, intergenerational summer festival that highlights the diversity of Madison’s southwest side. According to District 1 Alder Barbara McKinney, West Fest is a source of community pride.

“Yes, we’re trying to build that community pride. And we’re trying to build capacity. We have some pretty significant sponsors this year for Westfest and we’re really excited about that,” says McKinney who is one of the key organizers behind Westfest every year. “There are a lot of folks working collaboratively – neighborhood associations, homeowners, volunteers, businesses coming together. That’s what we’re seeing.”

Activities at Westfest will include Neighbor-to-Neighbor Craft & Gift Market, food cart vendors and hot dog grilling by the Madison West Police Department. There will be a community resource tent with local community organizations and businesses and plenty of great food and live entertainment and family fun.

Barbara McKinney (left) with Eva Vivian at last year’s Westfest

People in the area used to come to Elver Park on the 4th of July for a fantastic celebration with fireworks and food and a whole festival atmosphere.

“In 2015, the private funding went away and the city allocated a one-time $25,000 just to run it for that year,” McKinney said. “Of course, $25,000, when you’re looking at a massive fireworks display, is very tiny. So when I came into office I wanted to transition that from a huge fireworks display that brought people from all parts of town and I wanted to start building community. In order to build community, we wanted to focus on a festival for the southwest side.”

The idea for Westfest was born.

“We went neighbor to neighbor and business to business to ask for funding to put on the first ‘Westfest,'” McKinney remembers. “It was totally volunteer-driven and we had no budget, but people liked the concept and the idea of building a community-based event on the southwest side.”

In 2016, the first Westfest was held at Elver Park. “It rained all day,” McKinney laughs. “Not so happy about that … but it brought out the community and it really highlighted the great diversity that is in our area which I had no idea was so diverse on the southwest side.

“The second thing that the first Westfest did was really elevate the beauty of Elver Park as a destination. It’s a massive park that’s been underutilized,” McKinney adds.

{L-r] Madison Alder Samba Baldeh, Alder Barbara Mckinney, Mahlon Mitchell, and Alder Matt Phair at a previous West Fest

The theme for this year’s Westfest at Elver Park is “An Investment in Community Building”

“This is our third Westfest and we really want to build it into a significant destination for people on the southwest side of Madison,” McKinney says. “This is a busy weekend. There are 3 or 4 major events going on. There are festivals all over, but this is a special event that we are developing on the southwest side and we’re hoping to see a lot of people come out.

“The amazing thing about Westfest is the diversity we have in the community and our goal is to paint the southwest side with a different brush stroke,” she adds. “We’ve heard a lot of negative things about the southwest side, but that’s not who we are. We do have problems that we are addressing, but when you look at the southwest side we are very diverse.”

McKinney says that she is excited about the new Urban League’s Employment and Training Center across the street from Elver Park. “We will have central employment and training opportunities sitting in the heart of a community that really needs it,” she says.

On Saturday, Justice Castañeda, executive director of Common Wealth Development, Inc., will be the master of ceremonies at West Fest. The West Fest at Elver Park Opening Ceremony & Recognition of Sponsors will start at 11:30 a.m. There will be a ton of kids activities including face painting, splash pad, bouncy houses, fishing, bean bag toss and more.

Performance Center Stage Entertainment for Westside Fest will be as follows:
Noon – 12:45 pm – Truly Remarkable Loon
1:00 pm – 1:45 pm – DJ Kayla Kush
2:00 pm – 2:45 pm – Driftless Regionaire
3:00 pm – 3:45 pm – Samba Novistas
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm – International Dance
5:15 pm – 6:00 pm – Orquesta SalSoul Del Mad
6:15 pm – 7:00 pm – The Soul Inspirations

McKinney is hoping for a big attendance on Saturday and she has one big ask of the community.

“We have a celebrity dunk tank and we have no one in that dunk tank right now …. except the alder – me. I would not like to jump in a dunk tank. Period,” McKinney smiles. “We have five slots that we need to fill and if we could get five people who could bring some supporters who wouldn’t mind getting dunked … that would be great.

“We need to put some butts in that dunk tank and it shouldn’t be the elder alder,” she adds, laughing.

For more information about Westfest or to volunteer for the dunk tank, contact Barbara McKinney at (608)266-4071 or

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.